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Pennsylvania High Court Overturns Philadelphia Ban On "Blunt" Cigars

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a Philadelphia law that banned the sale of small cigars known as "blunts."

The state's high court said Philadelphia City Council has no authority to pass such a ban.

In late 2006, City Council passed a bill that outlawed the sale of small quantities of blunt cigars by all retailers except tobacco shops and hotels.

The sponsor, Councilman Brian O'Neill, said drug users were dumping the tobacco out of the blunts and replacing it with marijuana, sometimes laced with hallucinogens.

But several cigar manufacturers sued, arguing that only the state -- not the city -- can ban blunts.

Now, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed with the cigar companies.

The justices ruled that blunts are covered by the state's Controlled Substances Act, which pre-empts local legislation.

City councilman Darrell Clarke is not happy.

"I don't understand why any branch of government -- be it the legislative, administrative, or the judicial branch -- that is supposed to be in the law enforcement business would allow people to enhance their ability to use illegal drugs.  It doesn't make any sense to me," he said.

Also not happy is Councilman O'Neill, the bill's sponsor. But he says he is considering trying to rewrite the measure in a way that might meet the court's muster despite the jurisdictional issues.

"The federal government pre-empts the state, the state pre-empts the city, but you have to find ways of dealing with it as much as you can, and that's what I'm trying to do here: find a solution within the parameters and restrictions that are placed on us," O'Neill told KYW Newsradio this afternoon.

The measure that was knocked down had also outlawed rolling papers and flavored cigars.

Reported by KYW City Hall Bureau chief Mike Dunn.

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